Summary: This message unpacks some of the statements made about baptism and leads the believer, hopefully, to make a clear decision about their own theology of baptism. This message preceded a full immersion, believers' baptism.
The Gift of Baptism
Scripture: Acts 8:26-40
We’re going to consider several passages of scripture today, but this one is the key passage for what I think is the main consideration for today - at least it was for me this week.
Today is Baptism Sunday. It’s a very special day in the lives of two of our church family. And even more significant, it’s a father and daughter. In just a few hours from now, Patrick and Kaley will be immersed in the waters of baptism. So as part of our celebration with them today, let’s talk just for a few minutes about Baptism.
Each one of us here likely has an idea about what baptism is. We’ve come from all different backgrounds. Some of us have changed our ideas about baptism over the years, and as we’ve grown in our spiritual walk. I’ve learned something this week that I’m excited to share with you today, that has changed my idea about the significance of baptism.
Generally - just out there - there are concepts of baptism.
Two types: infant, and adult (or believer).
Three modes: sprinkling, pouring, immersion
Three theologies: Salvific, Covenental, Testimonial
Two rituals: sacrament, ordinance
Now I’m not going to look at each of these specifically, but by the end of this message, I hope you will be able to make up your own mind about what you believe about each of the categories, or at least you’ll have some food for thought so that you can make a clear decision about your own theology of baptism.
But what I want to do today instead, is look at some of the statements that are made ABOUT baptism and see if we can unpack some of those statements and understand whether they are truly in line with Biblical teaching or not.
Things we hear about baptism:
1. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace.
This pithy little saying is often heard when we talk about baptism. That Baptism is an outward sign - a visible expression of the grace that God has already given us when we accept Him into our life and become a follower of Christ. It’s an outward sign, to the world, - to the community - that we are aligning ourselves with those who believe in Jesus and seek to follow Christ.
In Jesus day, baptism was required of a newcomer to Israel, on their conversion, and then the more frequent baptisms were cleansings that were rooted in tradition - purification cleansings coming from touching a dead body, or other acts or circumstances that traditionally, made a person unclean.
So what John did, and Jesus affirmed with his own baptism, was to usher in the evidence of the new covenant - the Messiah had come - Jesus is here. God is beginning a new thing - but it’s rooted and grounded in the traditions He has already established with Israel. It’s a very important connection and understanding.
Baptism, then, IS an outward evidence of the grace, and the covenant between God and his people.
2. Is baptism for believers, or for infants?
Oh how the devil can use good things to divide and hurt the family of God - can’t he. There have been wars fought over this question and the most important thing is that we administer grace to one another in our beliefs. Let me tell you what I see in scripture and then you can decide if I’m on track or not. Now I will tell you, Wesleyans offer both infant and believer’s baptism. And we’re going to talk about that in just a minute a bit more.
Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas in jail. And the prison was shaken as Paul and Silas sang to the Lord and none of the prisoners escaped? It’s in Acts 16. This story is sometimes used to argue for infant baptism because it says the jailer and all of his household was baptized. But right before the baptism, in verse 32 of that chapter we’re told that Paul shared the word of the Lord with the jailer and with all who were in his household. Then in verse 34, it says that after they were baptized, they all rejoiced, - WHY? - because they believed in God.
I don’t believe that you share the word of the Lord, or rejoice in your belief, if you are an infant.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe you are necessarily doing anything wrong if you baptize infants, or if you were baptized as an infant. I just don’t believe it’s what Jesus commanded in the great commission, or set as an example for us, so I don’t believe it’s necessary for an infant to be baptized and we’ll talk about that in just a minute.